Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
IndustryAerospace, robotics
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Key people
  • Autonomous robots
  • space systems
  • space payloads
  • robotic spacecraft
  • telerobotics
Number of employees
11-50 (As of 1 July 2012)

Astrobotic Technology is an American privately held company that is developing space robotics technology for lunar and planetary missions. It was founded in 2008 by Carnegie Mellon professor Red Whittaker and his associates, with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize.[1] The company is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The first launch of one of its spacecraft, the Peregrine lunar lander, is expected to take place in July 2021[2] on a Vulcan Centaur rocket.[3]


The team stated an ambitious goal from the start in 2008: to be the first commercial operation to land their Red Rover on the Moon, using their Artemis Lander.[4] The company's first running prototype of Red Rover was completed the same year, and the concept lander was renamed Griffin.

On 28 July 2008, NASA awarded Astrobotic funding for a concept study on "regolith moving methods",[5] and the next year, Astrobotic began to receive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding from NASA totaling over $795,000 to investigate prospecting for lunar resources,[6] which eventually led to a concept called Polar Excavator.

On 15 October 2010, NASA awarded a contract to Astrobotic for Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) firm-fixed price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts with a total value up to $30.1 million over a period of up to five years, and in December, NASA's $500,000 ILDD project for further Lunar Demonstrations Data was awarded to Astrobotic.[7]

Astrobotic's "Technologies Enabling Exploration of Skylights, Lava Tubes, and Caves", was a Phase I selection for NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC).[8] In April 2011, Astrobotic received a $599,000 two-year contract to develop a scalable gravity offload device for testing rover mobility in simulated lunar gravity under NASA's Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR).[9]

In May 2012, David Gump left the position of President of Astrobotic and John Thornton took the reins.[10]

On April 30, 2014, NASA announced that Astrobotic Technologies was one of the three companies selected for the Lunar CATALYST initiative.[11] NASA was negotiating a 3-year no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) where the Griffin lander may be involved.[12] The CATALYST agreement was extended in October 2017 for 2 years.[13]

On June 2, 2016, Astrobotic Technology announced a new design of its Griffin concept lander and named it Peregrine.[14] Airbus Defence and Space signed a memorandum of understanding to provide engineering support for Astrobotic as it refines the lander's design. In December 2016 Astrobotic slipped their estimated launch date to 2019 and separated from the Google Lunar X Prize.[15]

On November 29, 2018, Astrobotic was declared eligible to bid on NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services to deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon.[16] Astrobotic's successful bid entailed a $79.5 million contract to deliver payloads to Lacus Mortis. Astrobotic set an initial target of fourteen payloads starting in July 2021.[17][18]

Commercial payload pricing

As of 2018, payload delivery to lunar orbit is $300,000 / kg; delivery to the lunar surface is $1,200,000 / kg; and $2,000,000 per kilogram ($910,000/lb) for deploying a rover.[19]

Lunar missions

Icebreaker to the north pole

In April 2011, Astrobotic contracted with SpaceX for a Falcon 9 launch of a lunar north pole mission for as early as December 2013. The mission was intended to launch the Griffin lander and deliver "a small rover and up to about 240 pounds (110 kg) of payload to the surface of the Moon".[20][21] The launch date slipped to 2015, and it was first named Polar Excavator, and then Icebreaker, that would target the lunar north pole.[22] This expedition's rover was to be Polaris.[23][24] A model of the Polaris rover was unveiled in October 2012,[25] and the company indicated that they were still under contract to SpaceX for a Falcon 9 mission.[26] The launch date further slipped to 2016, and Astrobotic contracted with two other GLXP teams including Team Hakuto and Team AngelicvM to share the launch expenses. The agreement was to launch the rovers of all teams on a single SpaceX Falcon 9 which would then use the Astrobotic Griffin lander. After landing on the lunar surface, all teams would have competed against each other to achieve the specific GLXP objectives and earn the various prices.[27][28] The Griffin lander was never built, and Icebreaker mission was not launched.

Mission One

In July 2017, Astrobotic announced an agreement had been reached with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to launch their Peregrine lander aboard an Atlas V.[29] This announcement seemingly indicates Astrobotic canceled plans to launch on a Falcon 9.[30] The Mission One is planned to be launched in July 2021.[2]

By May 2019, its first lunar lander mission, simply called Mission One, had 14 commercial payloads including small rovers from Hakuto, Team AngelicvM,[31] and a larger rover from the Carnegie Mellon University named Andy that has a mass of 33 kg (73 lb) and is 103 cm tall.[32] One of the payloads aboard the lander is a library, in micro print on nickel, which will include Wikipedia contents and Long Now Foundation's Rosetta Project.[33][34]

On November 29, 2018 Astrobotic was made eligible to bid on NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services to deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon,[16] and in May 2019, it was awarded its first lander contract for NASA.[35][36] Therefore, in addition of the 14 commercial payloads, the lander will carry 14 NASA-sponsored payloads, for a total of 28.[37]

Peregrine will carry a maximum payload mass of 90 kg (200 lb) during Mission One,[38] and it is planned to land on Lacus Mortis, a relatively flat plateau at 44°N 25°E, and operate for about 8 days.[19] The payload mass for the future M2 mission is capped at175 kg (386 lb), and the M3 and later missions would carry the full payload capacity of 265 kg (584 lb).[19]


Peregrine lander

NASA Selects First Commercial Moon Landing Services for Artemis Program (47974859117).jpg
Peregrine model
ManufacturerAstrobotic Technologies
DesignerAstrobotic Technologies and Airbus Defence and Space
Country of originUnited States
OperatorAstrobotic Technologies
ApplicationsCommercial lunar transport
Spacecraft typeCruise, lunar orbit and surface operations
Design lifeOne lunar day
Launch massMission 1: 1,283 kg (2,829 lb) [19]
Payload capacityup to 265 kg (584 lb)
Power30 W (0.040 hp)
Length1.9 m (6 ft 3 in)
Diameter2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)
StatusIn development

The Peregrine lander was announced in 2016.[14] It inherits designs from their previous concept lander called Griffin, which was larger but with the same payload capacity.[14] [39] Astrobotic had contracted Airbus Defence and Space to provide additional engineering support as they refine the lander's design.

Peregrine's bus structure is mainly manufactured out of aluminum alloy, and it is reconfigurable for specific missions. Its propulsion system features a cluster of five ISE-100 thrusters, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne that are based on the Divert and Attitude Control System thrusters it developed for missile defense applications.[14] Each thruster produces 667 N thrust. This propulsion system would propel the trans-lunar injection, trajectory corrections, lunar orbit insertion, and powered descent. The propulsion system is capable of delivering an orbiter to the Moon and then performing a powered soft landing.[19] The lander would carry up to 450 kg (990 lb) of bi-propellant mass in four tanks; its composition is MON-25/MMH, a hypergolic bi-propellant.[40] For attitude control (orientation), the spacecraft uses twelve thrusters (45 N each) also powered by MON-25/MMH.[19]

The spacecraft's avionics systems incorporate guidance and navigation to the Moon, and a Doppler LiDAR to assist the automated landing on four legs.[14] Its landing ellipse is 24 km × 6 km.[19] Peregrine is about 2.5 m wide and 1.9 m tall, and it would be able to deliver up to 265 kg (584 lb) of payload to the surface of the Moon.[14][41][19]

Its electrical systems will be powered by a lithium-ion battery that is recharged by a solar panel made of GaInP/GaAs/Ge. Radiators and thermal insulators are used to dispose excess heat, but the lander does not carry heaters, so the first few Peregrine landers are not expected to survive the lunar night,[19] which lasts 14 Earth days. Future missions could be adapted to do so.[19]

For communications to Earth, the lander uses different frequencies within the X band range for uplink as well as downlink.[19] Following landing, a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi modem enables wireless communication between the lander and deployed rovers on the lunar surface.[19]


Astrobotic has a line of three rovers called Polaris, CubeRover, and MoonRanger.[42]

  • The Polaris rover was unveiled in October 2012,[43][44][24] and it was to be used on a now cancelled mission called Icebreaker to the lunar north pole using their Griffin lander and deliver "a small rover and up to about 240 pounds (110 kg) of payload to the surface of the Moon".[20][21]
  • CubeRover is a class of planetary rovers with a standardized format meant to accelerate the pace of space exploration. The idea is equivalent to that of the successful CubeSat format, with a standardized architecture to assemble new units that will be all compatible, modular, and inexpensive.[45] The rover class concept is being developed by Astrobotic Technology in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, and it is partly funded by NASA awards.[45] The Principal Investigator of the program is Andrew Horchler. The first CubeRover is planned to be deployed on the Moon in 2021 on board Astrobotic's Peregrine lander.[46][47][2] It is called Andy, has a mass of 33 kg (73 lb) and is 103 cm tall.[32]
  • MoonRanger is a 13 kg (29 lb) rover being developed to carry payloads on the Moon for NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS). The $5.6 million contract was awarded to Astrobotic and its partner Carnegie Mellon University on 1 July 2019.[42][48] Launch is envisioned for either 2021 or 2022.[48][49] The rover will carry science payloads yet to be determined and developed by other providers, that will focus on scouting and creating 3D maps of a polar region for signs of water ice or lunar pits for entrances to Moon caves.[49][50] The rover would operate mostly autonomously for up to one week.[50]

See also


  1. ^ Krovel, Trond (10 December 2007). "Astrobotic Technology and Raytheon Collaborate to Pursue Google Lunar X Prize". Astrobotic Technology (Press release). Lunar Explorers Society. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  2. ^ a b c "Astrobotic Awarded $79.5 Million Contract to Deliver 14 NASA Payloads to the Moon". Astrobotic Technology (Press release). 31 May 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Astrobotic Selects United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur Rocket to Launch its First Mission to the Moon" (Press release). United Launch Alliance. 19 August 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  4. ^ Mosher, Dave; Duignan-Cabrera, Anthony (22 February 2008). "Private race to the moon (and money) takes off". Retrieved 20 August 2019. Astrobotic: Headed by William 'Red' Whittaker of Carnegie Mellon University, the team expects their 'Artemis Lander' and 'Red Rover' spacecraft to touch down first on the moon.
  5. ^ "NASA Awards Contracts for Concepts of Lunar Surface Systems". NASA. 28 July 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  6. ^ "NASA Contract to Astrobotic Technology Investigates Prospecting for Lunar Resources". Astrobotic Technology. 23 April 2012. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  7. ^ "NASA Selects Companies for Further Lunar Demonstrations Data". NASA. 20 December 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  8. ^ "2011 NIAC Phase I Selections". NASA. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  9. ^ "NASA Awards Contract for Lunar Gravity Simulation Device". Astrobotic Technology. Archived from the original on 14 May 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  10. ^ Foust, Jeff (31 May 2012). "Transitions for two space entrepreneurs". NewSpace Journal. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  11. ^ "NASA Selects Partners for U.S. Commercial Lander Capabilities" (Press release). NASA. 30 April 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  12. ^ "About Lunar CATALYST". NASA. 31 October 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  13. ^ "NASA Extends Agreements to Advance Commercial Lunar Landers". NASA. 31 October 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Foust, Jeff (3 June 2016). "Astrobotic unveils Peregrine lunar lander". Space News. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  15. ^ Thornton, John (19 December 2016). "Graduating from the Google Lunar X Prize". SpaceNews. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  16. ^ a b "NASA Announces New Partnerships for Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery Services" (Press release). NASA. 29 November 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  17. ^ "NASA Selects First Commercial Moon Landing Services for Artemis" (Press release). NASA. 13 May 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  18. ^ Berger, Eric (31 May 2019). "NASA picks three companies to attempt Moon landings in 2020 and 2021". Ars Technica. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Astrobotic - Payload User Guide". Astrobotic Technology. 2018. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  20. ^ a b Klotz, Irene (8 February 2011). "SpaceX Lands Contract To Fly To Moon". Aviation Week. Retrieved 20 August 2019. Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company, has signed a launch services contract with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for a Falcon 9 rocket to deliver a lander, small rover and up to about 240 lb. of payload to the surface of the Moon
  21. ^ a b "Astrobotic's Mission to the Moon Releases Payload User's Guide". X Prize Foundation. 3 March 2011. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  22. ^ "Icebreaker: Prospecting the Moon". Astrobotic Technology. Archived from the original on 22 May 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  23. ^ "Rover's Exploration May Lead to Deep Space". NASA. 22 June 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  24. ^ a b Spencer, Malia (29 May 2012). "SpaceX success brings Pittsburgh space startup closer to mission". Pittsburgh Business Times. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  25. ^ "Astrobotic Unveils Lunar Polar Robot". Astrobotic Technology. 8 October 2012. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  26. ^ Grush, Loren (27 October 2011). "Race to Mine the Moon Heats Up". Fox News. Retrieved 20 August 2019. planned to launch in late 2014 or early 2015
  27. ^ "Two Google Lunar XPRIZE Teams Announce Rideshare Partnership For Mission To The Moon In 2016". (Press release). X Prize Foundation. 23 February 2015. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  28. ^ "Google Lunar XPrize teams partner for a 2016 SpaceX moonshot". CNET. 23 February 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  29. ^ Ray, Justin (26 July 2017). "Commercial lunar mission signs up with Atlas 5 for launch". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  30. ^ "Astrobotic and United Launch Alliance Announce Mission to the Moon" (Press release). United Launch Alliance. 26 July 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  31. ^ Cole, Michael (19 March 2018). "Astrobiotic Ready to Become Delivery Service to the Moon". Spaceflight Insider. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  32. ^ a b "Andy's Mission". Planetary Robotics Lab. Carnegie Mellon University. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  33. ^ Wall, Mike (16 May 2018). "'Lunar Library' Aims to Preserve Humanity's History On the Moon (Wikipedia, Too)". Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  34. ^ Grush, Loren (15 May 2018). "This nonprofit plans to send millions of Wikipedia pages to the Moon — printed on tiny metal sheets". The Verge. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  35. ^ "NASA funds commercial moon landers for science, exploration". Astronomy Now. 2 June 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  36. ^ Wall, Mike (1 June 2018). "These Are the Private Lunar Landers Taking NASA Science to the Moon". Retrieved 20 August 2019. Peregrine will tote as many as 14 agency payloads to a big crater on the moon's near side called Lacus Mortis by July 2021, on the lander's Mission One.
  37. ^ Grush, Loren (5 June 2019). "This tiny rover will test how well small mobile robots can survive on the Moon". The Verge. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  38. ^ "Peregrine Lander". Astrobotic Technology. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  39. ^ "Griffin Lander". Astrobotic Technology. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  40. ^ "Aerojet Rocketdyne Successfully Demonstrates Low-Cost, High Thrust Space Engine". Aerojet Rocketdyne (Press release). 23 May 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  41. ^ Foust, Jeff (13 June 2016). "Landers, laws, and lunar logistics". The Space Review. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  42. ^ a b Astrobotic Awarded $5.6 Million NASA Contract to Deliver Autonomous Moon Rover. Astrobotic. 1 July 2019.
  43. ^ "Astrobotic Unveils Lunar Polar Robot". Astrobotic Technology. 8 October 2012. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  44. ^ "Rover's Exploration May Lead to Deep Space". NASA. 22 June 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  45. ^ a b Campbell, Lloyd (18 March 2018). "Astrobotic wins NASA award to produce small lunar rover". Spaceflight Insider. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  46. ^ David, Leonard (16 March 2018). "This Tiny Private CubeRover Could Reach the Moon by 2020". Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  47. ^ Jost, Kevin (8 May 2017). "Astrobotic to develop CubeRover standard for planetary surface mobility". Autonomous Vehicle Technology. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  48. ^ a b Astrobotic gets $5.6m NASA contract to develop MoonRanger rover. Brittany A. Roston, Slash Gear. 1 July 2019.
  49. ^ a b Astrobotic awarded NASA funding to build autonomous rover. Julia Mericle, Pittsburgh Business Times. 2 July 2019.
  50. ^ a b NASA Selects Carnegie Mellon, Astrobotic To Build Lunar Robot. Byron Spice, Carnegie Mellon University. 3 July 2019.

External links

  • Official website